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Some Scientists Exempted From Gag Rule

Thousands of scientists in the UK have been exempted from a law banning recipients of taxpayer funding from lobbying the government, the Guardian reports.

The law prevents groups receiving taxpayer funding from using that money to influence the government. That, Nature News reported in February, could be construed to mean that researchers wouldn't be able to advise officials on the policy implications of their work. It noted, though, that this effect on researchers is thought to be an unintended consequence as lawmakers were aiming to prevent charities or other groups from using government funds to lobby for even more funding.

This week, Lord Bridges of Headley, the parliamentary secretary for the Cabinet Office, announced a number of exemptions, including ones for the research councils, the national academies, and the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Guardian reports.

"This clarification is welcome but should have come sooner," says Martin Rees, the astronomer royal. "It's regrettable that it was preceded by months of confusion and ambiguity that generated needless anxiety, ill-feeling, and time-wasting."

Others say the exemptions don't go far enough as they don't encompass researchers funded directly by governmental departments.